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The following is a rough bibliography for Rock Art of the Northwestern Plains, with some emphasis on "biographic style", since that style is most concentrated in this geographic area;and related topics such as winter counts, painted robes, etc. These are types of rock art where we have the special advantage for interpretation that there exist close analogs whose interpretation is known (even if not quite a Rosetta Stone). The purpose is simply to assist any folks interested in rock art in finding things to read which may be of interest to them, in preparing to get the most out of our 2007 ARARA conference in Billings, Montana.


Obviously, not all of these sources are equally accessible. Many of the out-of-print items may be available in libraries or used book stores near you, or via the web.


A number of suggestions were received from James Keyser and and Larry Loendorf—their top recommendations are listed first below. Some were also received from Linea Sundstrom, Mavis Greer, and perhaps others to whom my apologies if their names are not listed here. Since no additional suggestions have come in the past several months, it seems time to let this out where more people can use it and comment on missing items.


I will happily make modifications and additions as appropriate. The grouping is by topic rather than alphabetical, and suggestions for strengthening the organization by topic will be particularly appreciated.


For those interested in shields, there is a separate section listing several works on that topic.


Best wishes,

Lloyd Anderson

Ecological Linguistics


(202) 547-7683


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James Keyser's and Larry Loendorf's suggestions:


Start with Keyser's article:

Keyser, James

1987 A Lexicon for Historic Plains Indian Rock Art: Increasing Interpretive Potential." Plains Anthropologist vol.32, no.115, pp.43-71.


A Biographic Dictionary that is useful as background for the Keyser article given just above is in:

Petersen, Karen Daniels

1971 Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion. Univ. of Oklahoma Press.


Then with three chapters in:

Keyser, James D., and Michael A. Klassen

2001 Plains Indian Rock Art. University of Washington Press, Seattle.,

"Ceremonial Tradition" pp.191-223

"Biographic Tradition" pp.224-256

"Robe and Ledger Art Tradition" pp.257-280


Much of this is also summarized in:

James Keyser

2000 The Five Crows Ledger: Biographic Warrior Art of the Flathead Indians. Univ. of Utah Press.


Some additional articles by Keyser (added by L. Anderson):

Keyser, James

1996 "Painted Bison Robes: The Missing Link in the Biographic Art Lexicon." Plains Anthropologist vol.41, no.155, pp.29-52.


Keyser, James, and Michael Klassen

2003 "Every Detail Counts: More additions to the Plains Biographc Rock Art Lexicon." Plains Anthropologist vol.48, pp.7-20.


Keyser, James

1977 "Writing-On-Stone: Rock Art on the Northwestern Plains." Canadian Journal of Archaeology no.1, pp.15-80.


Keyser, James

1991 "A Thing to Tie on the Halter: An Addition to the Plains Rock Art Lexicon." Plains Anthropologist vol.36, no.136, pp.261-267.


Keyser, James and Timothy J. Brady

1993 "A War Shirt from the Schoch Collection: Documenting Individual Artistic Expression." Plains Anthropologist vol.38, no.142 pp.5-20.


Klassen, Michael, James Keyser, and Lawrence Loendorf

2000 "Bird Rattle's Petroglyphs at Writing-On-Stone: Continuity in the Biographic Rock Art Tradition." Plains Anthropologist vol.45, no.172.


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Nagy, Imre

1994 "Cheyenne Shields and their Cosmological Background." American Indian Art vol.19, no.3 (Summer 1994), pp.38-47.


Sundstrom, Linea, and James D. Keyser

1998 "Tribal Affiliation of Shield Petroglyphs from the Black Hills and Cave Hills" by Plains Anthropologist vol.43, no.165, pp.225-238.


Wright, Barton

1976 Pueblo Shields from the Fred Harvey Fine Arts Collection. [96pp, many illustrations] The Heard Museum and Northland Press.


Schaafsma, Polly

2000 Warrior, Shield, and Star: Imagery and Ideology of Pueblo Warfare. Western Edge Press.


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Preparing trips before and after Billings:

"Sites Developed for the Public" in Plains Indian Rock Art pp.297-305 will also assist us in preparing trips before and after Billings.


This can be easily used together with the map of rock art sites on p.14 in:

Keyser, James

2004 Art of the Warriors: Rock Art of the American Plains. Univ. of Utah Press.


A less comprehensive but similar map is in Keyser and Klassen, Plains Indian Rock Art, p.2 (see also p.4).


* * * * *


What are the geographical ranges of various rock art styles/traditions, their overlaps in time and space? This goes far beyond "Plains biographic" rock art, as all geographic and time distributions of rock art are of interest in establishing the prehistory of the Great Plains and nearby areas.


Wellmann, Klaus F.

1979 A Survey of North American Rock Art. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. [See especially the map p.120 and the survey of the Great Plains pp.119-148, illustrations 626-759.]


There are small distribution maps in Keyser's Art of the Warriors, and these are done separately for a large number of carefully distinguished styles, rather than lumping them together. This means there are lots of overlaps, no simple sharp dividing lines.


Also Plains Indian Rock Art (Keyser and Klassen) has distribution maps with sites marked by dots for the northern Plains, especially the area around Billings.


Tratebas, Alice

1999 "The Earliest Petroglyph Traditions on the North American Plains." In: Matthias Strecker and Paul Bahn, eds., Dating and the Earliest Known Rock Art. Papers presented in Symposia 1-3 of the SIARB Congress, Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 1977, pp. 15-28.


Conner, Stuart. W., and Betty Lou Conner

1971 Rock Art of the Montana High Plains. The Art Galleries, University of California, Santa Barbara.


For time seriation as a method, see:

Greer, Mavis, and John Greer

2001 "Seriation in Rock Art Analysis" Paper presented at the 66th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, New Orleans, LA.


For the sorts of rock art east of Billings in the Black Hills/Cave Hills area:

Sundstrom, Linea

2004 Storied Stone. Univ. of Oklahoma Press.


An older treatment by Sundstrom, less extensively illustrated, is:

Sundstrom, Linea

1990 Rock Art of the Southern Black Hills. Garland Publishing [her dissertation].


For the Bighorn Basin just south of billings, the Wind River, in Wyoming and Montana, there is:

Francis, Julie, and Larry Loendorf

2002 Ancient Visions. Univ. of Utah Press


Francis, Julie E.

1991 "An Overview of Wyoming Rock Art." In: George C. Frison, ed., Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains, second edition, Chapter 10, pp.397-430. Academic Press.


Hendry, Mary Helen

1983 Indian Rock Art in Wyoming. Hendry Publications, Lysite, Wyoming.

[This book seems to provoke sharper views than many others. It has wider coverage than Francis & Loendorf, is extensively illustrated for the best pictorial view of the diversity of rock art across Wyoming, including some sites not yet identified again. But a number of specialists regard the text as useless at best. Hendry's analysis of the Ghost Dance seems to be a lightning rod for objectors. Readers should be aware of this controversy, and use the book for what it does offer.]


Renaud, E. B.

1936 Pictographs and Petroglyphs of the High Western Plains. Denver, Colorado: The Archaeological Survey of the High Western Plains, Eighth Report. [47pp. plus extensive plates]


Loendorf, Larry.

2008 Thunder and Herds: Rock Art of the Central High Plains. Left Coast Press


O'Neill, Brian

1981 Kansas Rock Art. Topeka, Kansas: Kansas State Historical Society. [34pp.]


Mulloy, William T.

1958 A Preliminary Historical Outline for the Northwestern Plains. Laramie, Wyoming: University of Wyoming Publications. [Deals with Pictograph Cave]


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Additional listings:


Books in print:

Dempsey, L. James

2007 Blackfoot War Art. Pictographs of the Reservation Period,1880-2000. Univ. of Oklahoma Press 461 pp.


Keyser, James D., and George R. Poetschat

2005 Warrior Art of Wyoming's Green River Basin. Biographic Petroglyphs along the Seekskadee. Oregon Archaeological Society Publication No.15.


Keyser, James D.

2000 The Five Crows Ledger. Biographic Warrior Art of the Flathead Indians. Univ. of Utah Press.


Blish, Helen H., and Amos Bad Heart Bull

1967 A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux. University of Nebraska Press. [out of print but several available]


Arni Brownstone

2005 Bear Chief's War Deed Tipi [details not known; a lecture by this title was given by Arni Brownstone in 2006 at the 27th Annual Royal Ontario Museum Research Colloquium and Vaughan Lecture].


Taylor, Colin F., and Hugh A. Dempsey, eds.

2004 The People of the Buffalo. Studies in Honour of Dr. John C. Ewers. Vol.1: Military Art, Warfare and Change. Tatanka Press, Verlag fuer Amerikanistik [Germany].

2005 The People of the Buffalo. Studies in Honour of Dr. John C. Ewers. Vol.2: The Silent Memorials: Artefacts as Culture and Historical Documents. Tatanka Press, Verlag fuer Amerikanistik [Germany].


Brownstone, Arni

2001 "Seven War-Exploit Paintings: A Search for Their Origins" In: Christian F. Feest, ed., Studies in American Indian Art. European Review of Native American Studies & Univ. of Washington Press


Brownstone, Arni

1993 War Paint: Blackfoot and Sarcee Painted Buffalo Robes in the Royal Ontario Museum. University of Toronto Press.


Afton, Jean, David Fridtjof Halaas, and Andrew E. Masich, with Richard N. Ellis

1997 Cheyenne Dog Soldiers: A Ledgerbook History of Coups and Combat. Univ. Press of Colorado. [On the Sand Creek ledger book, newer than the next item.]


Petersen, Karen Daniel

Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. [Has a Biographic symbol dictionary that is useful as background for the Keyser article on the "Lexicon," listed first above.]


Praus, Alexis A.

1955 A New Pictographic Autobiography of Sitting Bull. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 123, no. 6.


Fredlund, Glen, and Linea Sundstrom

1999 "The Crazy Mule Maps: A Northern Cheyenne's View of Montana and Western Dakota in 1878." Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Spring 1999, pp.46-57. [More detailed than the earlier item following.]


Fredlund, Glen, Linea Sundstrom, and Rebecca Armstrong

1996 "Crazy Mule's Maps of the upper Missouri, 1877-1880" Plains Anthropologist, vol. 41, no.155, pp.5-27.


Horse Capture, George P., Anne Vitart, Michel Waldbert, and W. Richard West Jr., contributors

Robes of Splendor. Native North American Painted Buffalo Hides. The New Press, New York.


Miles, Ray, and John R. Lovett

1994 "The Pictorial Autobiography of Moses Old Bull." American Indian Art, vol.19, no.3 (Summer 1994), pp.48-57.

Greene, Candace S.
2009 One Hundred Summers. A Kiowa Calendar Record. University of Nebraska Press


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Older books, out of print:


Gebhard, David C.

1969 The Rock Art of Dinwoody, Wyoming. Art Galleries of the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Archaeological Society of Alberta

1980 Story on Stone : A Photographic Record of Rock Art in the Southern Alberta Area Surrounding the City of Lethbridge.. Project Number 20. The Archaeological Society of Alberta, Lethbridge Centre [Alberta]. Pp 76


Maurer, Evan M., et al.

1992 Visions of the People. A Pictorial History of Plains Indian Life. Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


Ewers, John C.

1978 Murals in the Round: Painted Tipis of the Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache Indians. Smithsonian Institution Press.


MacLean, John

1898 "Picture Writing of the Blackfeet." Royal Canadian Institute Transactions vol.5, pp.114-120.


Parsons, Mark L.

1987 "Plains Indian Portable Art as a Key to Two Texas Historic Rock Art Sites." Plains Anthropologist, vol.32, pp.257-274.


Mooney, James

1898 Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Seventeenth Annual Report, Part I, pp.129-445. [Reprint Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.]


Rodee, Howard D.

1965 "The Stylistic Development of Plains Indian Paintings and Its Relationship to Ledger Drawings." Plains Anthropologist, vol.10, pp.218-232.


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Less central [more recent, less of the older traditions surviving], Biographic Art tradition:


Ewers, John Canfield

1957 Early White Influence Upon Plains Indian Painting. Smithsonian Misc. Collections vol.134 no.7.


Berlo, Janet Catherine

2000 Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers. Black Hawk's Vision of the Lakota World George Braziller Publisher.


Greene, Candace S.

2001 Silver Horn. Master Illustrator of the Kiowas Univ. of Oklahoma Press.


Donnelley, Robert G.

2000 Transforming Images. The Art of Silver Horn and his Successors. With contributons from Janet Catherine Berlo and Candace S. Greene. University of Chicago Press.


Berlo, Janet Catherine, ed.

1996 Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935. Pages from a Visual History. Harry R. Abrams, Publishers.


Viola, Herman J.

1998 Warrior Artists. Historic Cheyenne and Kiowa Indian Ledger Art Drawn by Making Medicine and Zotom. National Geographic Society.


Dunn, Dorothy

1969 1877: Plains Indian Sketchbooks of Zo-Tom and Howling Wolf Flagstaff: Northland Press


Horse Capture, Joseph D., and George P. Horse Capture

2001 Beauty, Honor, and Tradition. The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.


McCoy, Ronald

1986 Painted words. R. Lee White and Plains Indian Pictography. Published by The Museum [location unnown, exhibit catalog]


Taylor, Colin F.

1998 Buckskin & Buffalo. Rizzoli, N.Y.


Dunn, Dorothy

1968 American Painting of the Southwest and Plains Areas. Univ. of New Mexico Press


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Dissertations, presumably available from University Microfilm


Greene, Candace

1985 Women, Bison, and Coup: A Structural Analysis of Cheyenne Pictographic Art. Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. of Oklahoma.


McCoy, Ronald T.1983

1983 Winter Count: The Teton Chronicles to 1799. Ph.D. Dissertation, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff. [on Lakota winter counts]


* * * * *


Winter Counts

Note that Winter Counts are in the simplest form one symbol or motif per year, rather than entire paintings with many motifs carefully arranged so their relations also convey meaning. So the symbols in Winter Counts must be known, they cannot be inferred from context.


The major older tradition of Winter Counts probably were on buffalo skins. Later examples were pictographic on paper, and then still later were in alphabetic writing. But a given pictographic version may not always be older than a matched written one. Some pictographic Winter Counts were arranged in a spiral, and others in lines instead of spirals.


Web sites for Lakota Winter Counts:





Sundstrom, Linea

1997 "Smallpox used them up: references to epidemic disease in northern plains winter counts, 1714-1920."Ethnohistory vol.44 no.2 (Spring 1997) pp.305-343

[See appendix list of 53 winter counts used in this study, with bibliograph ]


Willow, V. James

Winter Counts, Symbols, and Pictographs [no data available, unable to find any copy of this one]


Raczka, Paul M.

1979 Winter Count: A History of the Blackfoot People Printed by Friesen Printers, Calgary, for Oldman River Culture Center [said to be from original hide drawings].


Dempsey, Hugh Aylmer

1965 A Blackfoot Winter Count. Occasional Paper No. 1., Glenbow Foundation, Calgary, Alberta [year by year, but no glyphs].


Howard, James H.

1960 "Butterfly's Mandan Winter Count: 1833-1876." Ethnohistory vol.7 pp.28-43.


Tanenbaum, Joan S.

1992 They count the years by winters: Mandan-Hidatsa lifeways as related in Butterfly's winter count and accompanying commentary by Buffalo Bird Woman [publisher unknown]


Howard, James H.

1976 "Yanktonai Ethnohistory and the John K. Bear Winter Count." Plains Anthropologist vol.21 no.73 part 2, pp.1-78.


Howard, James H.

1960 Dakota Winter Counts as a Source of Plains History. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 173, pp.335-416 + illustrations.


Mallery, Garrick

1877 A Calendar of the Dakota Nation U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey Bulletins 3(1).


Mallery, Garrick

1987 [1886] The Dakota and Corbusier Winter Counts. J. & L. Reprint Co., Lincoln, Nebraska [reprint of 1886 edition].


Cheney, Roberta Carkeek and Kills Two,

1998 Sioux Winter Count: A 131-Year Calendar of Events [1796-1926] Naturegraph, Happy Camp, Calif. [on skin, but linear].


Praus, Alexis

1962 The Sioux, 1798-1922, A Dakota Winter Count. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletins, no. 44. [linear].


Owner, Moses Red Horse

1969 Red Horse Owner's Winter count: The Oglala Sioux, 1786-1968. Booster Publishing, Martin, S.D. [linear].


Glancy, Diane

2001 Lone Dog's Winter Count [1801-1871]. West End Press, Albuquerque.


Powers, William K.

1994 A Winter Count of the Oglalas. Lakota Books, Kendall Park, N.J.


Finster, David

1968 "The Hardin Winter Count." Museum News, University of South Dakota 29(3-4):1-59.


Thornton, Russell

2002 "A Rosebud Reservation Winter Count: circa 1751-1752 to 1886-1887." Ethnohistory 49(4):723-741.


Feraca, Stephen

1994 The Wounded Bear Winter Count, 18915-1816, 1896-1897 with Notations in Lakota by Wounded Bear. Lakota Books, Kendall Park, N.J